Free Movement of Skilled Labor under the Caribbean Single Market: St. Kitts-Nevis's Vision for Unity

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

For more than 20 years, Caribbean leaders have pursued regional integration as a response to the challenges of globalization. The response, while consistent, has been sluggish and often wracked by nationalist politics and poor administrative procedures. As a result, the Anglophone Caribbean's experience and experimentation with regionalization has been the focus of some academic study of the politics, process, and procedure that has shaped the efforts, but the majority of the research has often ignored the role or opinion of the public about regional integration. This omission has meant the voice of the people most likely to be affected by the policies adopted by Caribbean leaders or ignored and at the least minimized.

Regional integration has been an evolutionary response for the Anglophone Caribbean as it sought increased economic opportunities on the global scene. Among international organizations, regionalization is the only response. In its 2010 report, Opportunities for Convergence and Regional Cooperation, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), noted that "greater regional cooperation and closer collaboration between and within the sub regions is no longer merely a major political objective, but also an economic imperative if the region is to integrate into a global economy that is increasingly structured around regional or sub regional value chains." (1)

Taking the lead on regional integration efforts has been the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Established in 1973, CARICOM was created to pursue "the attainment of a viable, internationally competitive and sustainable Community, with improved quality of life for all." (2) CARICOM represents 15 member states that stretch from Jamaica in the northeast to Guyana in the south on the mainland of South America. It has been the premier tool through which the region has pursued integration efforts under the Caribbean Free Trade Agreement (CARIFTA), the Common Market and, most recently, the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME). The CSME, the region's most ambitious effort at integration, is a vast regional agreement that calls for cooperation in seven areas, including taxes, finance, labor, laws, goods, services, and business. CARICOM leaders announced the launch of the CSME with a goal to "provide more and better opportunities to produce and sell our goods and services and to attract investment. It will create one large market among the participating member states." (3) One of the goals of the CSME was to encourage full use of labor through free movement of skills and services.

Divided into two components, the Single Market and Single Economy, the CSME has challenged Caribbean leaders previous concepts about regionalization that historically have focused on trade and tax agreements. This time, CARICOM member states are pursuing unity in new areas, particularly under the Single Market that includes free movement of labor and services. Outlined in Article 46 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, the free movement of labor policy envisions a new concept of integration that relaxes employment restrictions in member states to allow certain categories of workers to move freely. This policy is likely to have the most direct impact on residents of the region as it allows initially five categories of workers to move easily among member states to seek employment without the need for work permits. Despite the consequences for employment levels, career opportunities, and migration, Caribbean leaders have done little to investigate public opinion and generate public awareness about the free movement of labor policy under the CSME.

Rather, more than 10 years since member states agreed to implement the free movement of labor policy residents remain woefully unaware about the details of the policy. Additionally, CARICOM has struggled to monitor the policy in action and residents remain distrustful and misinformed about the policy. …